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Ignoring anti-immigrant xenophobia: The Common Council edition

Cross post from HatCityBLOG


Three blind mice

As I stated in a previous post, Mayor Boughton, his administration, and the elected officials who are directly responsible for dividing this city among ethnic lines are doing everything in their power to make the general public believe that the topic of xenophobia and anti-immigrant racism is not an issue in Danbury.

…and as evident by the hate-crime that was committed in October, and the continued taunts and racial slurs directed towards the immigrant community, and the failure of elected officials to even acknowledge the problem, when it comes to racial insensitivity, Danbury leads the charge in Connecticut.

When it comes to the divisive tone towards the immigrant community in the city, as the chief elected official, Mayor Boughton clearly deserves majority of the blame…but in this case, the buck doesn’t stop with him.

From the passage of the so-called noise/volleyball ordinance (which was directly aimed at the Ecuadorian community), the so-called parade ordinance (a proposal that sold by the mayor and anti-immigrant activists, and their supporters on the council as a way to squash spontaneous celebrations associated with the World Cup games), to the outlandish claims used by supporters of ICE ACCESS as a rationale for the passage of controversial program, for years, members of the Common Council have mirrored the mayor’s divisive tone in their decision making, comments, and threats against immigrant-related organizations.

…and just like the mayor, when the issue of racial tensions in the city becomes the topic of conversation, these same members of the council turn a blind eye to the matter and fail to even acknowledge that the problem exists in the city.

Case in point, here’s a very telling video clip from the Common Council at-large forum from back in October. Here’s the text of the first question:

The issue of immigration has been very divisive for our community. How would you change the tone of the debate and reduce tensions among Danbury residents?

As you watch the videoclip, pay CLOSE attention to the reaction to the question from the VERY members of the council who are most responsible for the anti-immigrant legislation in the city that was described earlier.

Lets take a closer look at the “answers” these members of the council gave to the simple question:

First up to bat, Republican Robert Arconti (a.k.a the person who proudly stood in solidarity with anti-immigrant hate-group leader Elise Marciano.

The relative of the beloved former Democratic Mayor Gino Arconti takes a note from the current mayor and ignores the issue of racial divisiveness altogether…

This immigration issue…I don’t think the question is divisive as the question poses.

Then in the next breath, continuing to ignore the issue, Arconti goes on a rant about his blind support for ICE ACCESS… something that has absolutely nothing to do with the moderator’s question.

…and in speaking with my constituents, I found that this was as issue that most people were in favor of having ICE ACCESS for the Danbury Police officers….

To put icing on the cake, Arconti finished his monologue with this gem…

Back in July of 2004, probably a little known fact that an illegal immigrant was here on the streets of Danbury. This immigrant was a convicted serial killer that was located by our officers and was taken into custody

Notwithstanding the fact that I haven’t verified Arconti’s statement, here are a few things to consider in regards to Arconti’s “statement.”

  • In his rationale for ICE ACCESS, according to Arconti, in JULY 2004 Danbury Police officers located a convicted illegal immigrant, and took him into custody. Now if the police department was able to apprehend and identify, an undocumented immigrant with a felony criminal record and take him in to custody without ICE ACCESS, then how is can this be a rationale for having ICE ACCESS in Danbury?
  • This ONE incident (an incident in which the police had no problem finding the individual) is this Arconti’s justification for ICE ACCESS in Danbury..a city that brags about having one of the lowest crime rates in Connecticut? Would anyone want to guess how many undocumented immigrant criminal felons are there in a city that has one of the lowest crime rates in the state?

Based on Arconti’s own statement, it seems like the Danbury Police Department was doing quite well without ICE ACCESS, which is not surprising seeing that the police department were not the ones who requested that the city get involved with ICE ACCESS in the first place. That piece of micromanagement goes to the Republican members of the Common Council who did this back in September of 2007 (just in time for the mayor to make it a campaign issue against them Democratic candidate Helana Abrantes).

And again, lets not forget that Arconti completely ignored of issue of racial tensions in Danbury…something that’s been around well before the debate over ICE ACCESS (and as a former police officer, an issue that’s he’s well aware of).

Like I said in the video, I think it’s fair to say that this picture best explains this councilman’s mindset and although I could go on and about Mr. Arconti, it’s better to move on…

Next up to bat, Republican Colleen Stanley:

The issue of immigration was not divisive in our community, it was the issue of illegal immigration that was divisive. But I also want to…hmmm, uh…explain how Danbury also has a long history of welcoming the immigrants into our community.

We have a many, many programs designed to assist the new immigrants into Danbury […] and I as a current councilwoman would continue to if elected to support our immigrant community.

Notwithstanding the fact that Stanley also COMPLETELY ignored the question of addressing the divisive racial tensions in the city, she continued by pointing off a series of programs in the area that are designed to help the immigrant community as well as pledging to support these program if re-elected.

There’s only one problem with her statement, she left out the largest organization who’s sole mission Danbury is to support the immigrant community with every single program she outlined…The Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury.

…and she left that organization out for good reason as she supported the Republican led effort to defund the agency after the group spoke out in opposition to the ICE ACCESS program.

The history between the Republicans on the Common Council, and anti-immigrant community, and the Hispanic Center will have to wait for another post but in short, the Hispanic Center were one of the first organizations to speak out against the anti-immigrant policies of the Mayor Boughton…something the Republcians on the council (including Councilwoman Stanley) have always resented.

The story of the Hispanic Center will have to wait for another post, so lets move on again.

Saving the best for last, here’s Republican Phil Curran:

I don’t even accept this question at all because I think the strong point for Danbury, when I walk around and talk to my constituents, is the fact that we’re such adverse community…I just think that the problem we have with questions like this is that it’s certain people in the community that try to drum up problems.

Curran couldn’t answer the question because he refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem with race in Danbury. Even worse, he has the audacity to say that the issue of racism in the city is a result of a certain segment of the population (immigrants…wink, wink) who want to “drum up” things.

Tell to that to the thousands of people who demonstrated outside of City Hall during the ICE ACCESS vote or the THOUSANDS who demonstrated in the 2005 and 2006 rallies down Main Street or the HUNDREDS to protested against the Danbury 11 case. Better yet, maybe Curran can explain himself to the two immigrants who were victims of a hate-crime DAYS BEFORE THE FORUM or the scores of people who were victims of racism who have complained about the problem only to be ignored.

Yeah Phil, they’re complaining just to “drum things up…”

Somehow I get the impression that the constituents Phil talks to doesn’t extend to people who live in the downtown area (you know, the area where most of the xenophobia against the immigrant community is taking place…)

I think Curran’s comment speaks volumes about the tone-deafness of our elected officials in the city…the same elected officials who are offended whenever someone rightfully calls Danbury the most racially divisive city in Connecticut.

As you saw, not one of the Republican council members on the panel answered the question that was directed to them by the moderator. In fact, only one person at the forum answered the question with common sense, Democrat Warren Levy.

Levy’s comment echoed a suggestion that was raised my several level-headed members of the Common Council during the vote for ICE ACCESS last year…a suggestion that’s also been largely ignored.

Robert Riley, a Republican on the Common Council, said the city may need to go beyond creating a steering committee. It may be time to start a task force that will work to heal the divisiveness the immigration debate has caused in recent years, Riley said.

A task force formed after a race riot in 1976 proved to be effective, said Riley, a former Danbury teacher.

“Maybe if we all just sat down, maybe we can have a better understanding on all sides,” Riley said.

Unfortunately, Levy lost his re-election bid to the council…

In short, people on the council like Boughton, Arconti, Stanley, and Curran, are symbolic of a segment of Danbury’s political environment that feel more comfortable ignoring the issue of racism in the city as opposed to acknowledging that the it exist.

In short, if one avoids the problem, then one become part of the problem.


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